Veteran leadership propels St. Norbert Dance Team over Oshkosh

Alum Natalie Wheeler coaches pom squad to historic win
Posted at 11:40 PM, Dec 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-06 00:40:40-05

ASHWAUBENON, Wis. (NBC 26) — The St. Norbert Dance Team toppled UW-Oshkosh for the first time ever at the Ashwaubenon Dance Invitational on Sunday in a historic first-place win, dominating the Collegiate Pom category by 14.2 points. They were led by one of their own in alumna Natalie Wheeler.

"I think for any athlete once they're retired, coaching is always kind of the next step," Wheeler said. "And so it obviously was a bucket list item."

"Natalie is a great coach. She really just pushes us to our limits, which is good," senior captain Lydia Andersen said. "That's what we need because there will be days where we want to give up or we don't want to come to practice but she's always there, motivating us, which is really what makes a good coach."

Wheeler brought hard work and discipline to her former team but also handed back some power by allowing senior captain Tasha Voss to choreograph their routines.

"The girls were really adamant about kind of changing the environment which, you know, to me, I didn't know anything different," Wheeler said. "So I kind of approached it the same way I approach life in general. I have a high standard for myself, and I kind of instill the same thing with my girls."

The dancers say it's easy to look up to Wheeler as someone who has shared experiences, graduated, and remains passionately involved in the local competitive dance community.

"She actually used to literally wear the same uniforms as us, and everything, like she has been in our shoes," Voss said. "And I feel like just from her experience like she knows what a good coach looks like, so she tries to carry that out on us."

Sunday was Wheeler's eighth time at the Ashwaubenon Dance Invitational and second as a coach.

"It brings back a lot of memories, to be honest, but I feel like every time I do come in, I'm in a new stage of my life and almost have a new role," Wheeler said. "In high school and in college when I would come in, you know, like my only focus was really myself. I only had to worry about myself, but now when I come in as a coach, you're kind of, you know, having to look at it from a lot of different perspectives, making sure I'm taking accountability for my girls, myself, and our organization as a whole."

Wheeler said she puts pressure on herself to coach well in the familiar arena because of her past success. But the Green Knights didn't set any hard goals outside having fun in their first competition since the onset of coronavirus.

"We never made a goal but I think our goal, you know, after every performance, practice, competition is to do our best and to have fun," Wheeler said. "I feel like even looking back in high school and college as well, I don't remember exactly what places we always took, but I remember the feeling. That feeling of just the memories being made, and being on that dance floor, and killing it, and just having a crowd go wild is unparalleled."